By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
P: Hey, have you seen the amicus brief that was written entirely as a cartoon?
S: A cartoon? You mean someone submitted a joke as an amicus brief?
P: No, not a joke. The lawyer, Bob Kohn, lays out his argument in a series of frames with characters and dialogue, like this. You can see the whole thing here.
S: Wow, did it work?
P: Not in the specific case. The judge went the other way just one day after receiving this cartoon. But it may get better mileage in the court of public opinion, through media coverage and in blog posts including this one.
S: Speaking of blog posts, why are we in dialogue mode rather than straightforward exposition?
P: Glad you asked -- that is the interesting part of it. If you look at Kohn's complete brief, it works not so much because of the imagery, but because it is a conversation - a dialogue. The vast majority of the frames in the cartoon - 37 out of 45 - are just two people talking.
S: That is interesting. Why does dialogue work?
P: Because our brains respond to it. The simple back-and-forth is punchy, clear in purpose, and easy to understand.
S: That's true. In just 800 words I was able to understand a pretty complex argument on antitrust issues in the e-book market.
P: Right, the technique actually has more in common with the Socratic dialogues than with modern graphics or conventional cartoons.
S: Okay, that is cool, but is there a larger point for legal persuasion?
P: Absolutely, there is a point for all litigators in and out of court. No, I'm not saying lawyers can switch to cartoons or engage in imaginary 'Eastwooding' conversations in court. But lawyers can apply many of the principles of dialogue to make their persuasion simpler and more effective, and that's what the rest of this conversation will be about.
S: I figured.